Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

A word on benchmarking partisan performance

As Senator Gorton told us in our recent podcast with him, determining objective data on partisan performance in Washington State isn’t easy. 

“It’s very much an art in this state because we don’t register by party, and people switch parties from one office to another.”

In parts of our series on redistricting, I sometimes refer to the partisan performance or the “Democratic performance.”  Good minds can vary on how this gets determined.  But, here’s how I distilled a statewide Democratic performance for the purposes of these series.

  • First, we took all of the statewide races where a partisan contest took place.  This included state executive races, presidential and US Senate races.  We only took results from the general election.
  • We did not take initiatives or any other proxy for partisan contests.  Where there were non-partisan candidates that were otherwise known to have a partisan background, we did not include those either.
  • Where multiple parties existed on the ballot, like the 2004 gubernatorial race with a Democrat, a Republican, and a Libertarian, we lumped all right and center-right parties together in one number.  We did the same for the left and center-left.  So, in that 2004 race, we have the Republican partisan vote at 51.1%.  That number includes the Libertarian candidate in that race.  We record this for overall partisan impact rather than the fact that Chris Gregoire won that election.
  • We then simply took the overall average performance of all of the Democratic votes (including relevant votes cast on the left) and the average performance of the Republicans (including relevant votes cast from the right).

This allowed us to create a Democratic performance benchmark.

There are other ways of doing this, but I think this is a commonly accepted model.  Consequently, we used this approach in our analysis for this series.  All election results and information was taken from the Secretary of State’s website at vote.wa.gov

I also want to note that we took the partisan composition of the House of Representatives from a Wikipedia site, which you can review here.